The final word
Joe McNally says shooting groups of people can be a nightmare, but can be great fun too
There might some photogs for whom photographing groups is enjoyable, even fun. I suspect they are in the minority. A group shot usually invokes nightmares about lighting, composition, and making a shot under a ridiculous time gun.
For my Creative Live class, above, I followed my basic rule of groups: make it fast, make it fun. I had a wonderful assist right behind me: an enormous window of frosted glass. Beautiful main light. But I was worried about how long that light would stay with me. It was late afternoon, and it was, after all, Seattle, the city where clouds strangle the sun on a routine basis.
See the small flashes in front of me, bounced into white sheets on the ground? At first, they were my only lights. Just a pair of Speedlights, sparking the wash of soft daylight piling through the gigantic window behind me. I controlled these SB-5000 units with a WRR-10 radio transceiver ten-pinned into my D5. I sent them a signal to produce a blip of light, a splash.
But the light was still a bit blah, and in the process of getting blah-er, so I added a main light, off to camera left. It took the form of a five-foot Octa wrapped around a Profoto B-1, and also three SB-5000 units, mounted on a Lastolite tri-flash, and firing through a 4-in-1 umbrella. The effect on the group was pretty close in terms of feel, and both the main sources were deadbang easy to control. The Profoto light responded to the air remote, while the Speedlights I controlled with my WRR-10. In both instances, I could adjust ratios accordingly, seamlessly, without ever leaving my camera.
But the main element was not the light. It was the fun of it. I tried my best to keep to my mantra I mentioned above. Oddly, one of the most important pieces of equipment that helps the fun factor is a tripod. I was on a heavy duty Gitzo here, so the camera was stable and my lines straight. This enabled me to be a bit of a gadabout, and just reach and hit the shutter release during a laugh. It’s helpful, for sure. I can make pictures without my eye in the camera.